Check Your Brain at the Church Door



“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

This anonymous prayer depicts religion as it can be but seldom is. The fundamentalist Church of Christ of my childhood neared a worst-case scenario of hatred and intolerance. I was raised to believe that:

1) The Bible was dictated word for word by God. The Bible is true historically and scientifically, and it outlines God’s plan for salvation so simply that “even a child can understand it.”

2) Salvation is by a combination of faith and works. Anyone who deviates in any way from New Testament teachings does so out of pride, and is doomed to an eternal fiery hell. Teaching the gospel meant warning people of hell in almost every sermon.

3) The Church of Christ is the only church that Christ instituted, although it was driven underground by persecution soon after Christ’s death until the 1830s when two former Presbyterian preachers brought it back above ground.

4) God will guide those who sincerely seek him to the Church of Christ even if they live thousands of miles from the nearest Church of Christ and have never heard of its existence. With the exception of children who have yet to reach an unspecified age of accountability, only members of the Church of Christ will go to heaven. The fate of someone who dies on his way to join the church (by being baptized) is unknown.


Some examples of what all this looked like in practice is that the Church of Christ doesn’t have instrumental music because the Bible doesn’t say that the early church had instrumental music; the Church of Christ practices baptism by immersion because Jesus “went down into the water”; the Church of Christ has weekly communion because the first Christians “broke bread upon the first day of the week”; and Church of Christ buildings are unadorned because the Bible doesn’t say that the early churches were adorned. The Church of Christ belief is that if the Bible doesn’t overtly approve of something, it is a sin to want it.

Despite insisting that God’s will is so clear that “even a child can understand it,” and that everyone outside its ranks is bound for an eternal lake of fire, the Church of Christ is divided into three branches, each of which insists that the other two are going to hell. The most conservative branch only uses one “cup” to serve communion wine because Christ said “take this cup in memory of me.” It doesn’t allow women to preach, teach Sunday school, or make announcements in church because the Bible says, “For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

The middle of the road branch (which was my branch) serves communion wine in little glasses that nest in stackable trays, but it doesn’t allow women to preach, teach Sunday school, or make announcements in church. 

The most nearly liberal branch serves communion wine in little glasses, and although it doesn’t allow women to preach, it does permit them to teach Sunday school and make announcements in church. None of these churches existed in my area.

Despite having a grandfather and a great grandfather who were Church of Christ preachers, I was the most religious person in my four person family. When I was eleven, I improvised a pulpit in my backyard, decorated it with wisteria, and preached to the neighborhood kids. I was the only person in my family who went to every one of the church’s four weekly services, and I never missed a revival at any of the area churches that were a part of my branch of the Church of Christ. I led singing, served communion, collected donations, preached short sermons, and went with preachers on out of state revivals. Despite all of this activity, I began to question the justice of the Biblical deity during the same year that I built my pulpit. At age eighteen, I optimistically tried to liberalize the church by writing articles for the newsletter. None of my articles were published, and, seemingly overnight, I became a persona non grata. When I left the church for good at age nineteen, no one inquired after me.

I hadn’t gone far, my town’s Episcopal Church being only three blocks away. Before I settled on the Episcopal Church, I went through a period of church shopping during which I visited fifty Christian denominations and a synagogue. Because my town didn’t have fifty denominations, I had to drive the sixty miles to Jackson (Mississippi) to find some of them. It was a period of great joy during which I had every confidence that I would find a church I could love. The Episcopal Church proved to be that church. My first experience with it occurred when my girlfriend, Sherry, and I were walking past my towns Episcopal Church of the Redeemer and, upon discovering that the door was unlocked, went inside. While sitting in silence admiring the beauty of the sanctuary, we heard the door open and the priest walk in. He greeted us warmly, performed whatever task that had brought him there, and left. 

A few weeks earlier, we had in the same manner walked into one of the area’s most conservative Churches of Christ. Because the different Churches of Christ have nothing to do with one another, we didn’t know anyone who attended that church, yet because we too were members of the Church of Christ, we anticipated a friendly welcome when we heard the door open, but the preacher was livid, accusing us of using the building to “gratify our lusts,” and threatening to call the police if we didn’t leave immediately. I interpreted his behavior versus the behavior of the Episcopal clergyman to symbolize the difference between the intolerant close-mindedness of conservative Christianity versus the openness and welcoming of liberal Christianity.

The biggest difference between myself and those who flourish in environments like the Church of Christ is that, while they feel threatened by differences, differences pique my curiosity. It is also true that, no matter where I go, I never truly feel that I belong because I am always the odd man out. Another difference is that I have a strong need for ritual and physical beauty, and the Church of Christ is largely devoid of both.

When I was a small boy, my family attended the Catholic wedding of my first cousin, and upon comparing the beauty of that church with its bright colors, saints’ statues, stained-glass windows, confessional booths, and fount of Holy Water, to the plainness of my own church, I began to yearn for the ornamentation that the Church of Christ says is sinful Having a rich history also matters to me, and although the Church of Christ claims that it had simply “gone underground” for 1,900 years, I don’t know if anyone really believed it, there being no record of the church having existed prior to the 1830s. The Episcopal Church used to run ads that proclaimed, “You Don’t Have to Check Your Brain at the Door,” and while the claim is debatable when made by any religious institution (all of which require belief in the unsubstantiated), checking one’s brain at the door is exactly what one must do to find contentment as a fundamentalist. Despite what many of their detractors claim, all churches are not alike.

23 comments:

Emma Springfield said...

You gave a good description of churches in general and the Church of Christ in particular. I was baptized in that church. I attended the third example when I was very young. My parents were not religious but as often happened at that time they sent their children to Sunday school. Until I requested to be baptized I was on the Baby Roll with other children.
I have also studied a lot of religions. Each and every one declares that they are the only way to get to heaven.
I completely understand what you say about the rituals and structure. When my brother was killed in Viet Nam one of the people who came to the funeral home was a neighbor of my parents. She came right before the funeral services. She walked up to the casket, knelt, and said the Rosary. She did not stay for the funeral. At the time I was totally struck by the fact that because of her Catholic beliefs he knew exactly what to do and how to do it. That image is always in my mind.
As I have stated before I am no longer a religious person but I do have knowledge of religion. In some cases a person may become a zealot to overcome feelings of inadequacy in his/her own beliefs. In many cases religion provides them with a feeling of belonging and a hope for the future. I don't think that is a bad thing.

Elephant's Child said...

Fundamentalist anything worries and scares me. There is no room for dissent, no room for learning, no room for growth.
It also often seems to me that the only room for joy is in seeing other people's pain and being smugly convinced it won't happen to them.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

A very interesting slogan 'you don't have to check your brains at the door.'

This must mean that they invite questioning. Faith as defined by many churches is the acceptance of dogma without questioning or reason.

I attended a mainstream protestant church as a child. I had lots of questions which were patiently answered or sometimes with the blanket reply that I am too young to understand the answer. Hell was not prominently featured and tolerance of other religions was encouraged. Different paths to God. But still I came to the conclusion that all was a deck of cards. (as per Alice in Wonderland)

But the terror your church installed in children, shame on them. And could the church elders read Greek as I think that is what "god" wrote the New Testament in.

Snowbrush said...

"I have also studied a lot of religions. Each and every one declares that they are the only way to get to heaven."

With all due respect, Emma, liberal churches don't teach this in regard to Christianity, and some of them are becoming more liberal everyday, if not as denominations then at least as scattered congregations. The local Quaker Meeting accepts atheists into membership (I've personally know two atheists who joined); the priest at the Episcopal parish that I sometimes attend says he is fine with atheists taking communion (he told me this himself). The Unitarian denomination is so far removed from being a Christian church that the one I attended in Minnesota (the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis) in the late '80s had an atheist minister (Khoren Arisian), and its members were outraged when they arrived one Sunday and found that the word "Church" had been mistakenly substituted for the word "Society" on the weekly bulletin. The Unitarian Church also contains within itself a group that calls itself the "Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans" (CUUPS). The Congregationalist denomination (now a member church of the "United Churches of Christ," a group that is completely unrelated to the church I grew up in) has also become increasingly liberal, as have United Methodist congregations, which are all over the place theologically, and the same is true of the local First Christian Church when compared to rural congregations within the denomination. Of course, the sad truth is that such churches have been hemorrhaging members for decades and might someday go out of existence altogether in favor of non-denominational evangelical churches, some of which boast of having tens of thousands of members in just one large congregation.

Child and Sue, I'll have to address your comments later...

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, a most interesting and informative post, factual, without a trace of rancor or condemnation that I can detect. Either you are mellowing as you approach your dotage or I am, having already entered it.

Did Robin Williams really write those Top Ten Reasons for Being an Episcopalian? It sounds like something from David Letterman’s television show.

I continue to read every post you write but I seem to be commenting less and less. I do try to steer clear of political, religious, or sexual discussions wherever I find them. I am not the confrontational type although I do have opinions. Maybe that’s why we are long-distance friends. Opposites attract.

Snowbrush said...

"At the time I was totally struck by the fact that because of her Catholic beliefs he knew exactly what to do and how to do it."

I would have been struck too, and I was thrilled to learn that the Church of Christ is a pat of your history. As you might know, the Church of Christ is so critical of non-extemporaneous prayers that they don't even recite the Lord's Prayer, the result being that the congregation gets to listen to a lot of inarticulate and mumbled prayers, some of which seemed to drag on and on. I think that a beautiful prayer is like a lot of beautiful things in that its richness can build in one's mind over the years, and I very much love the antiquity of much of what is in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

"In many cases religion provides them with a feeling of belonging and a hope for the future. I don't think that is a bad thing."

I think that, in most cases you're right, although religion has also been misused in order to quell the unrest of the oppressed so that they wouldn't rise up against their oppressors.

"It also often seems to me that the only room for joy is in seeing other people's pain and being smugly convinced it won't happen to them."

I think that's true of Trump supporters too because they seem fine with him doing shitty things to other people, secure in the belief that he won't do shitty things to them, but of course he is. The many farmers who supported him are being wiped out by his trade tariffs, and the Republican Party is now proposing cuts to Medicare (health care for the disabled and elderly), Medicaid (health care for the impoverished), and Social Security (retirement income that is financed through payroll deductions) in order to make up the deficit created by Trump's tax cut for the wealthy. But back to Christian fundamentalism, an elderly Church of Christ cousin had a big smile on her face when she told Peggy that Peggy was going to everlasting hell for not being a member of the Church of Christ. I've since wished that I had asked her what she was smiling about. Before that incident, I don't think Peggy really grasped the cruelty of the deity that is worshiped in the Church of Christ, despite the fact that she grew up in a devout Southern Baptist household, a church that is not known for worshiping a fair and kindly deity.

Snowbrush said...

"This must mean that they invite questioning. Faith as defined by many churches is the acceptance of dogma without questioning or reason."

In all honesty, and with the exception of the Unitarian (which bores me), I think there's a pretty low limit on how open almost any church is to the profound questions that I am capable of asking, although some denominations and some congregations within denominations are certainly a lot more open to them than others, which is why I like the Episcopal Church. I still go to Episcopal mass and Bible classes sometimes, but it's easy for me to wear out my welcome if I share my thoughts in much detail, and since I no longer expect to have my questions answered anyway, I question the appropriateness of asking ask them. The bottom-line is that church is like any other group in that its members desire cohesion and harmony, so if someone steps over the line between stimulating discussion and putting people on the defensive, he or is not going to be welcome no matter how rational his statements. My problem is that I often don't know where that line is until after I have stepped over it. When I get caught up in a discussion, I tend to say whatever comes to mind, and it just doesn't work sometimes. People look at me as if to ask, "If that's how you feel, then why are you here?" Well, I can think of a lot of reasons why I am there, but I don't expect my reasons to be appreciated. I've been really wondering lately about what is it that most Episcopalians believe anymore. Back in the '50s and '60s, a couple of Anglican bishops (Pike and Robinson) wrote separately about the profound doubts that Biblical scholars had been entertaining since the mid-1800s, and both men lost their jobs as a result. Yet, some of the kinds of things they challenged were dogma like the virgin birth and the Trinity, things that would probably be yawners today when no less a personage as the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed doubts about the existence of God. So if this is where things stand among some prominent church leaders, what in the heck does the average "man in the pew" believe?

Snowbrush said...

"Snow, a most interesting and informative post, factual, without a trace of rancor or condemnation that I can detect."

I would sue the bastards for child abuse if I thought I had a case (I'll never forget how much I was was terrorized by those fire and brimstone sermons), so I don't think I've mellowed much. It's just that, sometimes, the worst that can be said about a group is to depict it realistically as opposed to speaking of it subjectively. Because Church of Christ congregations have no authority beyond that of the individual congregation, I can't say that no Church of Christer would argue with some of what I've said here, but I have tried to portray the church as I knew it to be in Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and the tri-state area of Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee (which was where my Church of Christ great grandfather preached) during the '50s and '60s.

"Did Robin Williams really write those Top Ten Reasons for Being an Episcopalian?"

Yeah, sure, like the Internet would lie! Seriously, I can't find him saying them, but I did find him (on Youtube) saying that he was an Episcopalian.

"I continue to read every post you write..."

I am gratified and honored to know this because when you don't come around, it worries me, and unless you comment, I don' know you've visited because I don't track anyone.

"I am not the confrontational type although I do have opinions."

I'm not one to carry on a prolonged verbal argument because I get too upset, and because I am not verbally adroit. On my blog, though, I can word things in the best way that I am capable of, and I can control the direction of the discourse, not that I have occasion to censor anyone. By the way, since you have eclectic interests, I'll mention a really interesting book that I'm reading. It's called "A Passionate Pilgrim: A Biography of Bishop James A. Pike." He reminds me of myself inasmuch as he was a perpetual malcontent, the main differences between us being that Pike seems to have been a charismatic extrovert, the result being that he went a long way in terms of respect and career before he took his fall. I find the man so fascinating that I'm going to be bummed when I finish the book.

Marion said...

Matt.7

[1] Judge not, that ye be not judged.
[2] For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
[3] And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
[4] Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
[5] Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
[6] Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
[7] Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
[8] For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
[9] Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
[10] Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
[11] If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
[12] Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
[13] Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
[14] Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
[15] Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
[16] Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
[17] Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
[18] A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
[19] Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
[20] Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
[21] Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
[22] Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
[23] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
[24] Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
[25] And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
[26] And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
[27] And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
[28] And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
[29] For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Marion said...

I fucking hate RELIGION! It is not God. I know God personally and have experienced countless real, heart-shattering, unbelievable, earth-shaking MIRACLES in my poor, pathetic life. I have a deep abiding FAITH in God. We talk. He speaks to me in dreams, through nature and His Word. I have prayed for my child and seen her healed, confirmed by a doctor that it was a miracle. I have prayed for simple needs and they were provided... Conversely, satan has done his best to destroy me, my faith and my family. I will not give up my faith ever. There cannot be Light without darkness. I battle mentally, spiritually, physically every minute of every single day because of my strong faith.

Snow, we met for some divine reason. I feel drawn to you spiritually & as a friend. God loves you and feels your pain, the hurt you experienced through religion. God is not religion. God is LOVE: pure, beautiful, indescribable LOVE! I love you & pray for you every day. Fuck satan. He cannot have you. xo, Crazy Marion (When I talk to God, it is called prayer. When God talks to me, I'm called crazy.)

Ephesians 6:12-13 King James Version (KJV),

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Snowbrush said...

"Judge not, that ye be not judged.... Thou hypocrite..."

Isn't it ironic that so soon after saying, "Judge not, that you be not judged," Christ resorted to name-calling? While being Jesus might mean being "tempted in all ways as we are tempted," it obviously doesn't require resisting temptation, the implication being, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Marion, how can you speak of a God of Love while supporting a politics of hatred? You can call whatever it is that you believe about God by any name you please, yet when the growing number of people who are not religious, spiritual, or whatever word you prefer, look at Donald Trump and note that it is "God's faithful" who support this hate-filled man who spews venom with every breath and every tweet, they say, "If this is faith in God at work, the God's faithful are our enemies." It is a position that makes sense to me, because if the very people who go to church regularly, and study the Bible faithfully, can look at that Bible, and say yes to a violent and boastful narcissist like Donald Trump because of it, then there is surely something deeply degenerate about the Bible. I see that degeneracy in the extreme tribalism of Jesus himself as exhibiting in his referring to Gentiles as dogs, in his insistence that he was only sent to save the Jews, in his belief that "No one comes to the Father except by me," and in his condemning to eternal hell anyone who doesn't "believe that I am the Son of God"? Such words have been used to justify all manner of harm to those who "worship other gods."

cont.

Snowbrush said...

If someone were to say such things today, he would be regarded as a mad man by everyone but those who actually believed such nonsense and who stood ready to do any foolish and wicked thing he told them to do. If Jesus commanded them, such people would commit suicide as did the Heaven's Gate crowd or as did 900 of Jim Jones' followers. They would shave their heads and stick flowers in people's lapels like the Moonies; they would sell everything they owned and give the money to their guru as did the Rajneesh's; they would gather on a hilltop at dawn to await the end of the world as has occurred dozens of times, most recently under the advisement of Harold Camping in 2011; or they would murder the innocent while joyously shouting, "God is Great!" They would even hate their fathers and mothers; walk away from their responsibilities to their families; sell their clothes to buy a sword; threaten whole towns with God's wrath; or perform any of the other fanatical acts that Jesus himself demanded, but which almost no one takes seriously these 2,000 years after his death.

Jesus is only credible because he's long dead, and this enables millions to believe in him in relative safety, something that is not possible with living gurus who can look their followers in the eye, and say, "If you value heaven and fear hell, you will do as I say." Yet, it is also true that millions of America's Christians have taken everything that is good from the teachings of Jesus and magnified what is left to suit their purposes. How else could it be that this man who was a rebel in his own day, who wanted nothing to do with politics, and who scorned his society's standards of success, has been cheapened into the mascot of the Republican Party? Jesus has become the God of the status quo, of materialism, militarism, and patriotism. He is of late the proponent of an "American individualism" that regards wealth as a sign of God's favor and rewards it handsomely with tax breaks that will be paid for by cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, this while ignoring the cries of the destitute and ripping screaming children from the arms of desperate parents. The proponents of this purulence regard Donald Trump as second only to Jesus, and he seems to agree, although truth be known, I think his estimation of himself is greater than that. Whatever good might be obtained from a selective reading of the Bible (and one need only look at the Kings, Schweitzers, Bonhoeffers, and Dorothy Days of the world to see that much good has been obtained) has largely been eradicated by so aligning Christianity and Republicanism that there is no longer and daylight between them. "It is your Christian duty to vote Republican," the preachers say in violation of a law that governs political speech by non-profit organizations (and therefore of the passage from Corinthians so recently quoted by Jeff Sessions), and their flocks obediently walk into voting booths that, in many small towns, stand under crosses in churches, and do as they're told.

Marion said...

Jeremiah 20:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Romans 13 (NIV)

Submission to Governing Authorities - Romans 13

13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

LOVE Fulfills the Law

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

The Day Is Near

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of LIGHT. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.[c]

Footnotes:

Romans 13:9 Exodus 20:13-15,17; Deut. 5:17-19,21
Romans 13:9 Lev. 19:18
Romans 13:14 In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.

Snowbrush said...

Reflections upon being treated to a multitude of Bible verses...

Rather than dialogue, you copy and paste? I don't know if you realize this, but when someone doesn't believe that a deity wrote the Bible, then quoting long passages from the Bible because YOU believe a deity wrote it probably has the opposite effect of whatever it is that you're trying to achieve (my assumption being that you're trying to accomplish something good). For one thing, it makes the person you're quoting to think that you're not taking him seriously. In my case--given what you've said about God speaking to you--it also makes me wonder if you believe that God is telling you which passages to use in order to save my soul. Am I right?

I also see many textual problems with quoting the Bible as a source of wisdom and guidance. For instance, the Bible contradicts itself; it's simply wrong about many things (the Israeli bondage in Egypt being a major one); much of it is clearly myth (Eve being tempted by a snake, for example); and for every admirable sentiment that it expresses, it expresses one or more horrendous sentiments, things like, "Slaves serve your masters as you would serve God," or the one I quoted in this post ("It's shameful for women to speak in churches"). Then there are the really, really bad things that God himself commanded, such as when he told the Israelites to commit genocide, except for the young virgins whom, "You may keep for yourselves." So, Marion, while the Bible certainly interests me, you err in thinking that you will accomplish anything beyond, perhaps, making me worry about your sanity by copying and pasting long passages from it, and I'm hardly impressed that you would do so in lieu of addressing the points I've raised.

Love,
Snow

rhymeswithplague said...

Not trying to judge, but I do wonder whether God told Marion to follow her long quote from the Bible with “I f**king hate religion.” There seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance going on, or some not-so-passive aggression. I wish John Wesley really did say “Think and let think” as the world would be a much better place if more people took it to heart.

Snowbrush said...

"I do wonder whether God told Marion to follow her long quote from the Bible with “I f**king hate religion.” There seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance going on"

"f**king"...Frost King? No the number of letters doesn't match the number of asterisks...Oh, I get it!

The comment you referenced made me wonder if Marion goes to church; how she defines "religion" versus whatever it is that she identifies herself as being; and if she's aware that New Testament Christianity was very much a group enterprise. The fact is that the beliefs of those who don't join with others to organize governing structures don't tend to survive, and when those loners attack the people who have, for two millennia, joined their energies with the energies of others, they demonstrate how ignorant they are of how much they themselves have benefited from the work of those who devoted their lives to defining, spreading, and defending Christianity through groups. I recently mentioned Dorothy Day as being such a person. Without the Catholic Church to inspire her and to give her the resources to create the Catholic Worker movement, she would not have been nearly so effective. I really feel out of sorts with the "I'm spiritual but not religious" crowd because it seems to me that they seek to claim the benefits of religion without taking on any of the work or being bound by any of the precepts. At the same time, I'm aware that many of us who have what might be called "religious impulses," don't feel well accepted within religious communities, or else we don't accept them for one reason or another. For example, what little money I give to charity goes to public broadcasting, environmental protection, civil liberties, and cat rescue, none of which are things that churches support. This means that even if I did go to a church, I wouldn't give money to it because I wouldn't see donating to a church as the best use of my resources, given what my values are.

While you're here, I have a question. You surely know that, in regard to worship services, Episcopalians are divided between low church and high church. Would it be fair to say that Methodism had its start in low church Anglicanism?

rhymeswithplague said...

I don't know for sure -- I'm flying by the seat of my pants here (a strange image if there ever was one) -- but I imagine there were no (or very few) "low church" Anglicans in the eighteenth century. The whole kit and kaboodle were High Church, among the clergy at least. John Wesley retained all but two of the Thirty-nine Articles, and he and his brother Charles and their friends in the Holy Club at Oxford fasted and prayed regularly and had all sorts of rules and regulations. Of course in America the name Methodist Episcopal stayed around until the big merger in 1939. Maybe the low-church Episcopalians adopted a bit of the Methodist approach rather than the other way around. But I'm only speculating.

Snowbrush said...

"I imagine there were no (or very few) "low church" Anglicans in the eighteenth century."

I had hoped that you would either know the answer to my question or else go off and research it and get back to me. Here's what I know... The Anglican low church movement dates to the 17th century. It eschewed incense, votive candles, altar candles, altar cloths, flowers in churches, priestly vestments, and any and everything else that its adherents thought stank of "Catholic idolatry," and its proponents were as rigid on the subject of avoiding idolatry as any Church of Christ member could hope to achieve, and they thereby idolatrized the avoidance of idolatry. With the exception of altar flowers, which seem to have become all but universal across every denomination, I adore high church services, and they keep me going (off and on) although I believe hardly a word of the service. and all of which, , I love. I'm especially enamored of high mass, which out-Catholics anything I have seen in a Catholic Church (I actually WAS a Catholic for a short while, as you might know).

A big change in Episcopal worship that occurred since I joined in the early 1970s is that priests no longer face away from the congregation and toward an altar. They instead face toward the congregation, only being separated from it by a table that contains a cross and the communion elements. Also, the prayer book was revised in the late 1970s, and there's a lot less kneeling. I was happier with the church prior to these changes, and indeed a lot of parishes left what was then called the Protestant Episcopal Church (but is now called The Episcopal Church of America) because of the prayer book revision. Now, many churches don't even use the prayer book; they instead print whatever parts of the prayer book that will be used in the service on loose pieces of paper, a practice that horrifies me because it wastes paper and because it robs the people of familiarity with their prayer book. The reason given for this silliness is that modern people can't be bothered with turning pages in a book. I interpret it as a dumbing down, a desperate bid to hold on to an evaporating membership by reducing what was once a beautiful service to something a five year old could follow, and if there's one thing I'm sure of, it won't work, because I've seen the same thing happen in lodges, with the result being that less and less worthy and intelligent people joined, and the ones who did join weren't there because they loved the lodge but for the fringe benefits of lodge membership.

cont.

Snowbrush said...

A major problem that I have with all churches (and that is exemplified by throw-away worship service pages) is that they couldn't care less about the natural environment or about any of "God's creatures" but humans. I've been tempted to visit a local Episcopal church that kept the old prayer book, but since such churches also kept the old regulations against women clergy and equal rights for LGBT, I can't bring myself to go. I asked you about the low church/high church affiliation of the Wesleys because when I attend a Methodist Church, none of the high church preferences exist with the exception of flowers, which is something that all churches now appear to have, and to me is just another waste of money and natural resources.

I'll tell you one more change in Episcopal worship that you might find interesting if not amusing. Many people no longer swallow the wafer and then drink the wine. They instead hold onto the wafer until the wine comes around, and then they either dunk the wafer into the wine, or else hand the wafer to the server and have him or her dunk it into the wine after which it is placed onto the communicant's tongue. I have no idea how many germs a person can avoid by doing this. (Something that I have fantasized about doing is to be the first person at the communion rail and drink every last drop of the wine. Since the communion elements have to be consecrated, it would force the priest to consecrate a whole new batch of wine. Such is my sense of humor.) When I was a new Episcopalian, the priest's daughter had strep throat, and he stated that no one need worry because God would not allow his flock to get sick from taking communion. Now THAT'S faith, and it enabled me to understand how that priest, Father Hale, could consistently act out of love without any apparent concern for achieving a given outcome. In other words, he so trusted God that he could cheerfully go through life doing his best, and then letting it go. When another reader wrote that she hates religion (meaning, I assumed, church goers), I wondered, if people like Father Hale was who she had in mind. He was an interesting man in that he was so in-eloquent (I think he must have had some sort of malady) that he all but butchered the service. Those in the church who were more concerned with appearance than with substance, made a determined effort to persuade the bishop to transfer Father Hale somewhere, anywhere, as long as it was away from that church, yet he was the most loving man I have ever known. I never could tell that anything seriously bothered him, and I think it might have been because he completely trusted God to make all things come out right in the end. Most ministers, I think, are among the scum of the earth in that their thoughts are primarily on achieving occupational success, and so it is that I speculate that it is often the worst sort of people who rise the highest--people like James Pike. Father Hale didn't care about advancement, but he did care about me despite the fact that I had nothing of identifiable value to offer to that or any other church. In fact, when he finally was transferred, I soon quit going because without him, the building was but an empty shell, and I had no power to make it otherwise.

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, I happened upon kylie's Thinking Spiritually blog over there in your bloglist and left a comment yesterday on the thread you and she were having back in early July. Have a look-see and tell me what you think.

All Consuming said...

May the Gods of all sizes save us from people who use capitals to make their points continuously.

'Not trying to judge, but I do wonder whether God told Marion to follow her long quote from the Bible with “I f**king hate religion.” There seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance going on, or some not-so-passive aggression.' - Yep.

Hello Snow, I noticed you said you don't track visitors so only know who has been if they comment, so here I am *beams and hugs him*. I'll get back to you re Randy Rudolph soon. I think I've said all I ever can on the subject of religious and the hate/hypocrisy involved for many so shan't get into all that. X

Snowbrush said...

"I happened upon kylie's Thinking Spiritually blog over there in your bloglist and left a comment yesterday on the thread you and she were having back in early July."

I saw that you were there, and I started to comment, but was hoping Kylie would do so first since it's her blog.

"May the Gods of all sizes save us from people who use capitals to make their points continuously"

You're hitting kind of close to home here, Nellie. I sometimes do this, especially in commenting on my blog or others, because I can't create italics in order to emphasize a word or a point.

When I google the definition of religion, I come up with:

"(1) the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. (2) a particular system of faith and worship. (3) a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance. (4) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices."


I don't know which one of these is the one Marion hates. Please, oh please, Marion, dialogue about this. I value knowing what you think. To simply say provocative things (or quote long passages from the Bible without explanation) and then leave is reminiscent of a drive-by shooting.

"I do wonder whether God told Marion to follow her long quote from the Bible with “I f**king hate religion.”

In the oldest versions of the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying fuck this and fuck that in every other sentence. Seriously, I don't really know if it's irreligious (or maybe un-spiritutal in Marion's lingo) to use the f-word, but I do know that when a person (I, for example) don't feel heard or taken seriously, it's tempting to turn up the volume, so to speak.

rhymeswithplague said...

"I can't create italics"

Of course you can. It's simple. Put an i within pointed brackets < > to start italic mode, and put a forward slash and an i (that is, /i) within pointed brackets < > to end italic mode.

You can also use b for boldface type or use u for underlining. Try it; you might like it!

Today HTML, tomorrow the world.